Three Log Max ® heads are strong players on large equipment roster of Washington State logger.
BATTLE GROUND, Washington – Shovel logging, tower logging, thinning, trucking, road building site preparation and reforestation are services offered by Levanen Inc. The 35 employees at the company use a veritable A to Z of equipment brands.
Scott Levanen, owner and president of Levanen Inc., values employee input on equipment. In some instances he allows employees to work with equipment they prefer. As a result, the hand-cutting crews use both Stihl and Husqvarna chainsaws.
Levanen was incorporated in 1989. Yet Scott’s logging experience began much earlier. He grew up working with his father Ray Levanen, a logger; and he worked for other logging companies. He also studied engineering for a year and worked at a grain elevator during the recession of the early 1980s and through the nineties.
Being an employee at the grain elevator was great experience, said Scott. “I got to look [at things] from the employee-side of business.” (During the first 18 years he was building Levanen, Scott continued to do seasonal work at the grain elevator.)
Today, Scott knows how much he can learn about what’s going well and what’s not by listening to employees. Ultimately, he decides on purchases, of course, but input from his team is extremely helpful in his goal of keeping equipment well-maintained and in service as long as possible.
“We just repair and run them,” said Scott of machines.
A Tigercat 830 feller buncher has been going strong for 11 years. “We’re really happy with that,” said Scott.
“Performance” is the criterion that Scott uses when choosing equipment. He emphasizes that all the equipment on his roster is there because it works well.
“I’m not really a one brand person,” said Scott. “A mixed brand roster works for me. I do have my own mechanics in the shop.”
Among the processing heads in use at Levanen are three from Log Max, Inc., which is headquartered in Vancouver, Wash. Scott purchased his first Log Max head in 2008.
“I was impressed in what I’d seen and what I’d heard about Log Max,” said Scott. He bought a Log Max 7000 mounted on a TimberPro 820E, a combo machine for thinning work, which yields cut-to-length material. “I was very pleased with the product and the service,” he said.
Scott next purchased a Log Max 7000XT. The Log Max 7000XT is used to process tree lengths at landing. The heavy-duty machine is mounted on a Hitachi 250 log-loader carrier.
Recently, Scott purchased a Log Max 10000XT, mounted on a Cat 325D log loader. “The processor is used at the landing – our staging area,” said Scott.
The XTreme series of Log Max heads was developed to provide a heavy-duty, track-carried partner in tough jobs. The Log Max 10000XT cuts wood up to 35.4 inches in diameter.
All the heads in use at Levanen are “top quality,” said Scott. “The performance of the Log Max, and the support staff at the convenient location right in Vancouver” are plusses.
The Log Max 10000XT was developed specifically to be matched with track carriers. Although Scott has a configuration that allows him to use the machine as a dedicated processor at landing, the head can also be configured as a harvester for felling and processing at the stump. Both harvester and dedicated processor versions of the Log Max 10000XT have an integrated top saw.
Because the Log Max 10000XT can be mounted on track carriers, owners have the option of choosing a relatively light carrier. The choice of such a carrier can result in fuel savings. The single-grip feature of the Log Max heads also reduces the marks on the circumference of a log. For some species of trees, this tender touch helps produce a quality log.
Challenging wood is part of the day-to-day at Levanen. “We do specialize in transmission poles and pilings,” said Scott. “The transmission poles are up to 130 feet – Douglas fir.”
Identifying trees suitable for poles is part of the process. “We have to look for a certain butt size (diameter) and taper,” said Scott.
Working closely with the mills to which Levanen sells is something Scott enjoys greatly. It’s all about making certain that Levanen produces a quality product, one that incorporates the unique specifications of each mill.
Levanen sells to export mills, domestic mills and pulp and paper mills. “One of the biggest destinations is Longview, Washington – its port, for export overseas,” said Scott.
Standing timber is procured through sales by both private and public landowners. Levanen also does work for the Department of Natural Resources of Washington.
Douglas fir predominates among the species cut. Red alder, western red cedar, western broadleaf maple and oak are also in the mix. Levanen moves logs with its own trucks, many Kenworth and one Peterbilt.
When we spoke with Scott in mid-January, his team was working on the south flank of Mount Saint Helens, a job for a large timber company that would continue through April. Shovel and tower logging were in use.
Among the yarders Levanen uses are a Skagit GT3 swing yarder and a West Coast Hawk. An ACME S24 carriage is being used with the Skagit and an ACME S28 carriage is being used with the West Coast Hawk.
The two radio-controlled carriages are the first purchases that Scott has made from ACME Manufacturing in Eugene, Ore. Scott chose the carriages based on “word-of-mouth” recommendations from fellow loggers about the “reliability” of the compact log movers.
The town of Battle Ground in Clark County, Washington is home to Levanen Inc. Battle Ground has approximately 17,500 residents. It lies in the southwest part of the state just north and east of Vancouver, Wash. and close to the border with Oregon.
Scott and his wife, Wendy, married in 1981. They have 11 children. Two sons are still in high school, eight of nine daughters are married. Daughter Kylie Pegoraro is office manager at Levanen. Daughter Cori Levanen works with Kylie. Both Kylie and Cori have pilot licenses so that they can drive escort vehicles that accompany log trucks with transmission poles or the lowboy moving heavy equipment to provide ample warning of oversize, slow, heavy loads to other traffic.
Kylie is now immersed in the administrative niche at Levanen, but she has a bit of experience in the field. “I ran a dozer and a couple of pieces of equipment for a summer or two,” she explained.
A few years ago, Tony Pegoraro, Kylie’s husband, and Scott formed a new company, The Firewood Guys, Inc. “There was no market for wood, especially pulp, back in 2010,” said Scott. “We got a business license” and started a firewood business.
The Firewood Guys buys pulp wood from Levanen and also from other suppliers. A Blockbuster 18-20 firewood processor (with a 30-ft. conveyor) is the workhorse of the firewood business. “Those folks have been great,” said Scott of the team at Blockbuster Inc. in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.
“We bring the wood into the yard, deck it up and then it sits in decks for one or two seasons,” explained Kylie. Firewood is sold by the cord (all delivered) or bundled. The bundled wood goes to campgrounds, convenience stores and gas stations. Bundling is done with a bundler that was built in-house.
The Firewood Guys has tried selling loose wood in satchels. For some reason, though, customers have not embraced that packaging. (Scott recalls when there were milk producers trying to sell milk in bags and buyers rejected that packaging.)
Levanen Inc. belongs to the Washington Contract Loggers Association and it is certified as part of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). All equipment operators at Levanen receive extensive training. Communication among team members on the job site and off the job site is standard procedure at the company, one that fosters quality results.
Good outcomes are the goal at every job site. “Do the job like it was your own,” said Scott. “We leave [a site] like we would like our own job done.”
Even during the few years he spent away from logging, Scott knew he would return. “It’s the lifestyle,” he said. “It has its draws – freedom being one of them. Then, the people – the buyers to the log managers. Everyone. And the outdoors.”
It’s all about keeping the priorities of life in mind, said Scott. “We keep our faith, family, then work – in that order.”
Scott and Wendy now have 25 grandchildren. “We were blessed with a big family,” he said. “It’s a blessing from God.” As the children have grown he is looking forward to being able to take more time to travel with his wife and spend time with family. They recently visited the mid-Atlantic region and Williamsburg, Va.
“We feel very thankful and blessed with our work,” said Scott. “And to make a living – we’ve been humbled by that. We look to the future.”
In his free time, Scott likes to hunt and fish and spend time outdoors. He and his family enjoy doing all those things together.